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Business Intelligence:
Management and Financial Reporting

Representative Situation

What is a Representative Client's Problem?

Our client, like many companies, had implemented several different commercial software products to help manage various parts of their business. This included an ERP system from J.D. Edwards to manage financials, inventory, and distribution; a CRM system from Clarify to support customer service and complaint tracking; a separate internal time-keeping system with external interfaces to ADP for payroll processing; and an order tracking application required by one of its vendors. In addition, there were numerous MS Access and MS Excel “databases” developed and used by various departments for key reports and analyses. This combination of disparate systems led to many reporting problems, including:

In short, the client needed an integrated corporate reporting system that culled important data from the disparate information systems, ensured integrity and timeliness of the data, and presented it to management in an easy-to-access and consistent format. The client had taken the first steps towards addressing some of these problems by implementing Crystal Enterprise. However, they found that if new “integrated” reports were simply added to the existing infrastructure, then the problems listed above were often compounded rather than solved.

What Semeron Does for Our Client?

Improving corporate reporting for any company involves a multi-faceted approach. One of the first steps is to develop a thorough inventory of the existing reports, including their primary uses, frequency, and data sources. This information is used to identify discrepancies in data that lead to inaccurate and unreliable reports. Our efficient approach to this effort allowed us to quickly identify timing and integrity problems that were then resolved. In addition, Semeron designed and helped implement a corporate reporting “dashboard” that is accessed through the client’s intranet. Using a combination of existing products and tools (MS SQL*Server, Crystal Reports and Crystal Enterprise) along with several custom developed tools and techniques, we were able to provide management with key performance indicators (KPI's) and other relevant metrics in a manner that is easy to access. This information is supplied primarily by a centralized data store that pulls information from the various core systems and summarizes it for quick reporting. Users can also ‘refresh’ the information they need for special analyses using the intranet to download data from the centralized data store.

How Does Our Client Benefit?

The primary benefit is that management received reliable, accurate, and timely information with which to make decisions. This information is presented consistently, and is displayed and distributed in the manner most appropriate to the end-user (e.g., summarized on intranet web pages, documents or spreadsheets distributed by e-mail, summary and detail reports displayed on-line, and paper copies as needed). We were also able to eliminate users having to separately maintain data in Excel and Access databases. The client can now spend more time analyzing the reports and making business decisions based on them rather than spending time reconciling reports and trying to verify their accuracy.